• schopenhauer1
    3.5k
    What is your definition of a mean person or someone being mean?

    Is being a mean person a moral flaw, just a personality quirk, or something else?

    When is being mean called for (if ever) and when is it not?
  • alcontali
    702
    What is your definition of a mean person or someone being mean?schopenhauer1

    Differences between American and British English: mean
    • In the U.S., mean usually describes someone or something that is unkind, cruel, or violent: "It’s mean of you to ignore her.That’s a mean trick!"
    • In the U.K., mean usually describes someone who is not generous or does not like spending money: "He’s too mean to give a large donation."

    Is being a mean person a moral flaw, just a personality quirk, or something else?schopenhauer1

    It is a negative impression that one person has about the behaviour of another person. I think that it requires an incident in which that person has misbehaved. But then again, it does not mean that this person is always misbehaved. It is possible to morally judge an incident, as we have witnessed it, but it is much more difficult to judge a person with all his past and future behaviour.

    Still, better safe than sorry. If someone has done something really objectionable to you (or someone else), I understand that you decide to avoid dealing with that person in the future.
  • schopenhauer1
    3.5k
    Differences between American and British English: mean
    In the U.S., mean usually describes someone or something that is unkind, cruel, or violent: "It’s mean of you to ignore her.That’s a mean trick!"
    In the U.K., mean usually describes someone who is not generous or does not like spending money: "He’s too mean to give a large donation."
    alcontali

    Yes, I mean the U.S. definition/version. The U.K. definition would be more uncharitable, scrooge-like, ungenerous, stingy, etc.

    It is a negative impression that one person has about the behaviour of another person. I think that it requires an incident in which that person has misbehaved. But then again, it does not mean that this person is always misbehaved. It is possible to morally judge an incident, as we have witnessed it, but it is much more difficult to judge a person with all his past and future behaviour.alcontali

    Interesting, besides that it is about "impressions" of the beholder of the mean person, you added something about an incidence of misbehavior. I guess I would like something a bit more concrete. Misbehavior doesn't have to be mean.
  • creativesoul
    6.2k
    Well...

    If behaving morally/ethically requires being considerate to others, and being mean is a kind of inconsiderate behaviour, then yes... by definition alone... mean people are immoral(have a moral flaw).
  • schopenhauer1
    3.5k
    If behaving morally/ethically requires being considerate to others, and being mean is a kind of inconsiderate behaviour, then yes... by definition alone mean people are immoral.creativesoul

    Ok, but then what is the basis for being considerate? At what times should one be considerate and at what times should one not? Is it all the time? Is it good to use as defense against an inconsiderate or insulting attack of some kind?
  • Coben
    943
    Mean is pejorative and the only way you could tell if someone is mean is through acts. So if you use the term 'mean' to describe someone, unless you do not believe in morals, you would think they are immoral. I don't think mean can just cover an attitude.

    If you used a word that covers the same behavior and intentions of a mean person, but is not pejorative, then perhaps you could say it does not entail them being immoral.
  • schopenhauer1
    3.5k
    If you used a word that covers the same behavior and intentions of a mean person, but is not pejorative, then perhaps you could say it does not entail them being immoral.Coben

    You'd have to clarify that. What do you mean by pejorative in this case? Are you saying a mean person is someone who expresses contempt (aka pejorative) or someone who is worthy of contempt?
  • Tzeentch
    415
    Being mean holds close relation (and is perhaps synonymous) to discharging negative emotions, like frustration, fear or insecurity, onto other people.

    While I think meanness is by definition undesirable, I do not think it is indicative of a fundamental character flaw, but instead of unresolved negative emotion. This can be somewhat benign, or it can be rooted in much deeper psychological issues.

    Is it good to use as defense against an inconsiderate or insulting verbal attack of some kind?schopenhauer1

    I don't think so. An eye for an eye doesn't just make the whole world blind, but it also erodes one's moral integrity by engaging in the sort of behavior one finds immoral. Such is the debasement of oneself, no matter what kind of a situation it is applied to.
  • schopenhauer1
    3.5k
    While I think meanness is by definition undesirable, I do not think it is indicative of a fundamental character flaw, but instead of unresolved negative emotion. This can be somewhat benign, or it can be rooted in much deeper psychological issues.Tzeentch

    What do you mean by unresolved negative emotion? This is doing the opposite of the other poster who put the burden of the meanness on the observer (calling it an impression). This is putting the sole focus on the mean person (unresolved negative emotion). Should there be any focus on the mean person's action towards the person it is directed at, or are you purposely trying to maintain that the attention should solely be on the mean person, as if an oddity that should just be watched from a distance and have him/her work their negative issues out.
  • creativesoul
    6.2k
    If behaving morally/ethically requires being considerate to others, and being mean is a kind of inconsiderate behaviour, then yes... by definition alone mean people are immoral.
    — creativesoul

    Ok, but then what is the basis for being considerate? At what times should one be considerate and at what times should one not? Is it all the time? Is it good to use as defense against an inconsiderate or insulting attack of some kind?
    schopenhauer1

    Are you asking if being considerate is good while being inconsiderate is not?
  • Tzeentch
    415
    What do you mean by unresolved negative emotion?schopenhauer1

    Emotions like the ones I mentioned (fear, anger, insecurity) that a person has not found a means to discharge and thus are "trapped" in his mind.

    This can be somewhat benign. Lets say I spilled a cup of coffee over my desk and it frustrated me. This emotion then needs to be discharged. I may go for a walk or perform some physical exercise. I may express my frustration verbally towards a colleague. Or I may bottle it up and be moody for the rest of the day. Since the source of frustration is gone, this sort of emotion tends to resolve itself in time.

    It can also be more severe in nature. Imagine the same sort of process, but with a heavier emotional load. Perhaps someone has had a difficult relationship with their parents. Perhaps someone was deeply hurt in a relationship. It is possible for such events to become internalized, whereby the actual source of the emotion is gone, but the mind itself becomes the new source. This starts getting in the realm of mental trauma.

    This is doing the opposite of the other poster who put the burden of the meanness on the observer (calling it an impression). This is putting the sole focus on the mean person (unresolved negative emotion).schopenhauer1

    That's right.

    Should there be any focus on the mean person's action towards the person it is directed at, or are you purposely trying to maintain that the attention should solely be on the mean person, as if an oddity that should just be watched from a distance and have him/her work their negative issues out.schopenhauer1

    I think an action can be mean even if the 'victim' of meanness does not interpret it that way, so mostly the latter. Though, there are certain aspects that we haven't covered yet.

    For example, there has to be an aspect of non-consensuality. However, consensuality does not solve everything. Even in a consensual exchange a person can still be mean, like in an abusive relationship. Though, one must ask if such a relationship is truly consensual.
  • Coben
    943
    The word mean carries the judgment that there is something wrong with them. 'Mean' has in it a value judgment that whatever it describes is, to some degree, negative, bad. Perhaps someone else would call what you are callilng a mean guy, a blunt, person with high standards who tells people what he thinks of them. Those are more neutral terms. Might be an asshole, might be a great friend. Might be an ok person, who knows. But if you tell me X is mean. I know you judge hiim in a negative way or you wouldn't use that word. You pretty much have to think he is immoral, if you use the word 'mean', unless you don't believe in morals, but note that he acts in ways intended to hurt people's feelings.

    It's a bit like one can't call a car crap and not think it's a bad car. That isn't a moral judgment, but mean is also pejorative and must, I think, entail a moral judgment if the speaker thinks in moral terms.
  • creativesoul
    6.2k
    Is it good to use as defense against an inconsiderate or insulting attack of some kind?schopenhauer1

    It's always good to be considerate. Being considerate does not equal being defenseless. One can be both considerate and well defended. It's always good to be considerate and well-defended.

    Not all insults have the same effect/affect upon the listener. An insult can be appropriate. Here, on this forum, it can exemplify any number of different underlying situations. Some considerate people insult others as a result of careful consideration.
  • Bitter Crank
    8.4k
    "being a mean person" might not be as bad as being a mass murderer or an arsonist, but certainly meanness is a moral flaw. Take a look at the synonyms:

    unkind nasty spiteful foul
    malicious malevolent despicable
    contemptible obnoxious
    vile odious loathsome
    disagreeable unpleasant
    unfriendly uncharitable
    shabby unfair callous
    cruel vicious base low
    horrible horrid hateful
    rotten lowdown beastly
    bitchy catty shitty

    Harm causing, all. Bad news.
  • creativesoul
    6.2k
    Emotions like the ones I mentioned (fear, anger, insecurity) that a person has not found a means to discharge and thus are "trapped" in his mind.

    This can be somewhat benign. Lets say I spilled a cup of coffee over my desk and it frustrated me. This emotion then needs to be discharged. I may go for a walk or perform some physical exercise. I may express my frustration verbally towards a colleague. Or I may bottle it up and be moody for the rest of the day. Since the source of frustration is gone, this sort of emotion tends to resolve itself in time.

    It can also be more severe in nature. Imagine the same sort of process, but with a heavier emotional load. Perhaps someone has had a difficult relationship with their parents. Perhaps someone was deeply hurt in a relationship. It is possibly for such events to become internalized, whereby the actual source of the emotion is gone, but the mind itself becomes the new source. This starts getting in the realm of mental trauma.
    Tzeentch

    Mental trauma?

    When memories of emotionally devastating situations perpetuate past feelings of fear, anger, and/or insecurity.

    Internalized?

    As if memories, emotions, and being devastated were not always - in part at least - already internal to begin with. How does something go from already being internal to being internalized?
  • Pfhorrest
    159
    Internalization is what makes it trauma: when the stimulus that prompted the bad feelings is gone but the bad feelings continue anyway, the stimulus no longer being whatever external thing instigated it in the first place but some internal memory of that instead.
  • creativesoul
    6.2k
    All memory meets that criterion.
  • Pfhorrest
    159
    All memory is internal yes. Not all pain is in response to memory. Getting fixated on a memory of a passing painful thing is “internalizing” it, because memories are internal unlike the passing stimulus.
  • Tzeentch
    415
    I'm just providing a functional explanation in relation to the topic. The matters you address are complicated and beyond what I wish to discuss.
  • Razorback kitten
    63


    I'm English and our definition covers both being tight with money and being cruel in some way. I doubt the definitions are worth mentioning.

    Mean is in the eye of the beholder. Most children think their parents are being mean. The animal kingdom seems rife with it. Being mean is something only another can consider a personal flaw. If it's in the culprits best interest, how could it be a flaw of their personality? It all depends on who answers the question. The supposed mean person, or the one (s) who they're doing something to.
  • uncanni
    234
    I do not think it is indicative of a fundamental character flaw, but instead of unresolved negative emotion. This can be somewhat benign, or it can be rooted in much deeper psychological issues.Tzeentch

    I think that meanness is indicative of a character flaw and unresolved negative emotions. How can character not be influenced and revealed by the ways in which we act out our emotions?

    Trauma can create a flawed character as well as a damaged psyche: many people who are the victims of severe abuse in infancy and childhood become abusers, and many have paranoid-schizoid splits that make it extremely difficult for them to realize consciously that they're repeating the same horrible behavior that was done to them. Actually, it's not so uncommon at all for most people to split off from their own mean behavior and not recognize it for what it really is. I'll never forget a colleague I had years back who had been shamed and humilliated by her doctoral exams committee (mean, insecure people), and she loved to be mean to undergraduate students. Meanwhile, she saw herself as the loving mother of four children.

    So I'd have to call it a character flaw when people have a "dark side" that they never really own as responsible for nasty behavior. When I lose my temper, I think of my own behavior in these terms.
  • Terrapin Station
    13.3k
    What is your definition of a mean person or someone being mean?schopenhauer1

    Being an asshole, a bitch, a dick, etc.

    I wouldn't say it's a "moral flaw," no, although I suppose often enough it leads to behavior that I'd classify as immoral. For example, an asshole might be more likely to hire someone to do work for them and basically wind up ripping them off a bit--maybe they'd short them a bit, or push them to do something outside of the context of what they hired them for without additional compensation or something like that, for example.

    I like people to be honest/to honestly express themselves/to be existentially authentic. So if being an asshole or a bitch is how they authentically feel, I think they should express that. I'm just not going to be hanging out with them if it's a way they regularly are.
  • Coben
    943
    although I suppose often enough it leads to behavior that I'd classify as immoral.Terrapin Station
    If one thinks in moral terms, and calls someone 'mean' I can't really imagine how that person has not acted from that meanness and thus been immoral in what ever that person's moral system is. It can't just be nasty thoughts. And even something like meanspirited...it seems to me there would be actions. I could imagine saying 'that guy feels mean or hateful or something. But to call someone mean, I think, needs to be coupled to prior acts.

    A. Joe is a mean person.
    B: What did he do?

    That question it seems to me can always expect and answer. I suppose the mean person might have just stared at the proverbial old lady in the street moaning and pain and done nothing, but that would probably be immoral to most people, and to those who would use the word 'mean'.
  • Terrapin Station
    13.3k
    If one thinks in moral terms, and calls someone 'mean' I can't really imagine how that person has not acted from that meanness and thus been immoral in what ever that person's moral system is. It can't just be nasty thoughts. And even something like meanspirited...it seems to me there would be actions. I could imagine saying 'that guy feels mean or hateful or something. But to call someone mean, I think, needs to be coupled to prior acts.Coben

    It could just be speech, for example. I don't consider any speech immoral.
  • Coben
    943
    Wow that's even stronger than not thinking any speech should be restricted. So the doctor walks up to your kid after the tests and says 'Sorry kind, the kind of brain tumor you got, it'll kill you slowly and painfully.' And either laughs wildly (if it's true he's got a tumor) or keeps talking about the upcoming horrors until he decides to say he was just kidding. Nor immoral?

    or
    someone at work walks up to after you've been in a meeting and say that your wife came by and they couldn't find you and how sorry he is that your daughter was killed by a bus.'

    It's kinda fun making these up, but you the idea. I presume you won't think these are immoral. I can't imagine why, though. Let me know.
  • iolo
    126
    Like so many things, it is surely a matter of economic background? My Mother's family were Cardis, people who regard Scots and Yorkshiremen as wild, drunken spendthrifts. Cardiganshire was one of the few British regions that had near-Irish poverty and potato-dependence, but they were lucky enough to live in the first majority-industrial country on earth, so they could move to the mining valleys and open shops. As compared with the free-spending miners they appeared despicable, but they made better things possible for their young, I suppose. I find it difficult to blame people for things, as if they had serious choices in this economic system.
  • Judaka
    421

    It's a moral flaw, meanness tends to be petty and selfish, if meanness isn't a moral flaw then idk what is.
  • Wallows
    9k
    You haven't been to other countries @schopenhauer1?

    I don't even know if that's a mean comment per se.
  • Terrapin Station
    13.3k


    Yeah, not immoral to me.

    I'm someone who wants people to express themselves as they feel like expressing themselves, and who thinks that we need to not put too much weight on things that people say/we need to be at least a bit skeptical of things that people say. In expressing themselves, some people might be odd, might enjoy joking around, might have odd senses of humor, etc.

    This doesn't imply that I'm going to enjoy every way that people express themselves--as I said earlier, I'm not going to spend a lot of time with people who are regularly "mean," or who regularly complain, who are often negatively judgmental, but I don't feel it's immoral for people to express whatever they want to express, even if it's dishonest, manipulative, etc.--again, be at least a bit skeptical of what people say.
  • Mww
    1k


    Mean-ness can be thought as describing a subjective feeling under the umbrella of arrogance. Being mean is the manifestation of mean-ness, and takes its objective form by causing the feeling of displeasure in another subject of like kind by an action that supports mean-ness.

    IFF one predicates his own morality on the existence and power of moral law, he is immediately immoral, that is, subjectively, by having mean-ness incorporated into his personality, yet only mediately, that is, objectively, immoral if he should subsequently act to treat another subject as an end, by means of the satisfaction of his own feelings of arrogance.

    To be arrogant in its various forms, is the prime facilitator for actions that exhibit such immoral conditions in a subject, but does not thereby make such actions absolutely necessary, re: the deviation from which is impossible, for it is not uncommon to witness people generally known for being mean circumstantially acting kindly.

    Personally, yes, I think a mean person is immoral, and I think mean-ness is a moral flaw. But I have been mean, and I may yet be mean, so......there is that.
  • schopenhauer1
    3.5k
    This can be somewhat benign. Lets say I spilled a cup of coffee over my desk and it frustrated me. This emotion then needs to be discharged. I may go for a walk or perform some physical exercise. I may express my frustration verbally towards a colleague. Or I may bottle it up and be moody for the rest of the day. Since the source of frustration is gone, this sort of emotion tends to resolve itself in time.Tzeentch

    I see, you are explaining a possible origin of a mean act or person. Do you think all mean acts/people come from a place of unresolved conflict in some past event or trauma? Can it be just a general attitude of the person without being from some past event? What happens if one chooses to freely be a mean person vs. some indistinct prior emotional event?
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